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There are a few things about woodworking I do not like. I do not like to have a ton of scrap wood left after completing a project. Holding onto some of it is fine in my opinion. It’s great for making jigs, stop blocks, and even for project support. However, my current situation had gotten out of hand. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of all of that wood. Then, I thought maybe I could make a scrap wood project. First, I needed to get in the mind frame of not doing fine woodworking. Afterall, once you let dried wood sit around for a while (most wood purchased at big box stores) it warps and cups very quickly.

What the hey it’s summer and what better way to enjoy our summer than to spend it outdoors playing with a water table. It doesn’t need to be perfect, only sturdy enough to last through the summer. My goal was to not spend ANY money building this table.

After quickly surveying my lumber stock, I found a few 1″x4′ pieces of pine left over from the pull out storage bed I built a few months ago. I purchased several 1″x4’s that were going to be used as slats. If you are a crafty person or know one, then you probably know that they start on multiple projects before finishing one. You can guess that’s what happened to the bed. I let the slats sit around and they were too warped to use by the time I was ready to finish the bed. That’s when they went to the scrap wood pile. I was also able to salvage a few 1″x 6′ boards used in the cabinet I built organizing my shop. It was difficult to let go of my 2×4’s since I use them as sacrificial pieces while ripping sheets of plywood, for the sake of conquering this free build challenge. Besides 2×4’s are super cheap, I can always buy more.  I usually buy hardware and screws for each project, so I had a supply of screws of all sizes. I also found some great inspiration from this water table.


Let’s Build!

1. Gather the scrap wood

A general rule of thumb is to buy at least one additional piece when you’re shopping for lumber for a project. That’s how I ended up with enough wood to build something I never planned to build. When using scrap (leftover) boards, the boards may be warped from the climate or have knots that may have fallen out. This all adds character to your piece and depending on what you are making the wood does not have to be pristine. If you do plan to use scrap wood for a nicer piece of furniture there are a myriad of options to restore it. These range from sanding or planing the wood to the use of wood filler or stain to cover imperfections.

DIY water table

2. Assemble the base 

I based the dimensions of the water table on the 2-28 quart containers I planned to use ( I did have to purchase these). After cutting the 2×4 boards 43 1/2″  and the 1″x4′ into 12″ pieces (the photo shows them a bit longer as I had to make an adjustment at the end). I used GRKscrews to assemble the bottom. These screws are great for plywood and outdoor use they are incredibly strong and what I had on hand. GRK screws reduce the chances of your wood tearing if you are using a harder wood. I used pine, which is a softer wood, for this project and did experience some tearing.

DIY water table

DIY water table
GRK screws use a star or torx drill bit. A good rule of thumb is to select a screw 1.5″ longer than the piece you are drilling into.


3. Lay The SlatsDIY water table

DIY Water Table

I used 19 1/4″ 1″x4′ slats that were intended for a bed build, since they were warped I figured they would be great for this scrap wood project. I placed them at an equal distance a part, using one the slats as a spacing guide.

My GRK screw supply was running low, I began using 1 5/8″ deck screws to secure the slats. Deck screws are specifically made for decks and therefore the ideal choice for a project that will get a lot of moisture.

4. Attach The Legs

The legs measure 24″  in height and made from 1″x4′ boards. I cut the bottom of the boards at a 45-degree angle at the miter saw. If you don’t own a miter saw, a miter box or circular saw you do not have to cut the legs at an angle. It only adds a bit of interest to the table.

DIY Water Table

DY water table


5. Build The Top

The top of the water table dimensions mimic the bottom the table. The sides are made from 1″‘boards that are 12″ for the sides and 43 1/2″ for the front and back.

diy water table 23

diy water table 23

6.The Table is Done!

I added a cross board in the middle to divide the two containers, I later moved it so it sat underneath the containers for support.

DIY water table



7. Water and Sun Protection For Your Water Table

There are numerous products on the market that will protect wood from sun and water damage, insects and general decay. Did you know regular old paint can do the job. As I was trying to keep with the theme of not spending any money on the build. I had a jar of sample paint leftover from the desk I built a few months back. Sample paint is the way to go in my opinion. You can have a container made to match ANY COLOR for less than 4 dollars. The sample cans are about the size of a pint. I did one coat (that’s all I had). In a pinch you can dilute water-based paint with a small amount of water to stretch it. Just keep in mind it may change the color a bit. Some people recommend paint thinner to get your paint top go further. I haven’t tried it yet, but what the hey I say give it a try on another scrap piece of wood.

Towards the end I got a great idea to add an irrigation  system to the table with PVC pipe and clamps. So, yes, I spent a little bit of money. I used furniture grade PVC from FORMUFIT . Furniture grade PVC is made without the same chemicals  as standard PVC, such as those that are found in vinyl, BPA and phthalates, which are known to be toxic. The FDA ammended thier original regulation that BPA in plastics had any connection to health safety. It was banned in infant formula packaging and sippy cups in 2013. Vinyl and pthalates tend to off gas and the smell isn’t so pleasant, this off gassing is sped up when these compounds are heated, i.e. in the sun. I opted to avoid any potential known dangers and purchase something a bit safer.

I attached the PVC with PVC clamps from Rigid, which I purchased at Home Depot. Lastly, to make water play more enjoyable, I added a 6′ beach umbrella that can be easily removed.

DIY water table

DIY water tableDIY water table

DIY water table

DIY water table


The awesome thing about a water table is it can serve a dual purpose. In the winter, you can hose it down, let it dry and bring it inside and fill it with sand or any other fun items for a sensory table. Summer’s not official over yet, let me know if you decide to build a water table.

Here’s quick video on the finihsing touches.

Live Passionately. Be Great.

3 thoughts on “How I made a deluxe water table from scrap wood”

  1. This is brilliant! I can feel that you built this one really durable based on the step by step instructions. What I like about this DIY is you made it dual purpose which you can also use indoors. Playing with sands in different colors has been a trend lately so I guess this is a perfect tool for kids to develop their motor and sensory skills.
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